Changes in regional politics around the North Korea issue, including growing speculation about a preemptive U.S. strike on North Korea and a warming in North-South relations ahead of the PyeongChang Olympics have generated new debates in China on its North Korea policy. In part two of this two-part podcast, Paul Haenle sat down with Jia Qingguo, Dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University, to discuss the possibility of a preemptive military strike on North Korea, the stability of the North Korean regime, and the dangers of North Korea’s weapons program for international nuclear proliferation.
Jia said the chance of military conflict on the Korean Peninsula remains very high and there is no clear path to resolution of the situation. He agreed with Haenle that the relative costs of a preemptive strike have changed under the Trump administration due to North Korea’s rapid development of its nuclear weapons program. It is very difficult to ascertain the stability of Kim Jun-un’s regime from the outside, Jia said, but international pressure is likely causing internal friction among senior officials. He argued there is an urgent need for contingency planning between the United States and China, noting that if a crisis were to break out, the region may not prepared to respond in unison. Jia added that dialogue is needed to plan for the management of nuclear facilities, care of refugees, and restoration of long-term stability to the Peninsula. While there are those in the Chinese policy community who recognize the importance of these types of dialogues, Jia said, many fear that they could lead North Korea to turn its missiles on China.
Paul Haenle is the director of the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy. Prior to joining Carnegie, he served from June 2007 to June 2009 as the director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia Affairs on the National Security Council staffs of former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Jia Qingguo is a professor of diplomacy and international relations and Dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University. His research interests include China-US relations and Asia-Pacific studies. He has published extensively on U.S.-China relations, relations between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, Chinese foreign policy and Chinese politics.